Due to the recent cold snap and ill health I have been feeling like a caged animal. Despite leaving a decision until as late as possible I reluctantly missed the VHF Fun Day that took place in January.
Keeping a close eye on the five day forecast I deciced that Sunday 31st January would give me a chance to get out onto the hills,stretch my legs and play some radio. Putting the trusty Yaesu FT817ND on charge before going to bed I decided not to set my alarm for daft-o-clock but to just let myself wake up naturally. I woke up at 7:30am and my 10 year old son Aiden was still sleeping soundly so I had breakfast and slowly started to get my things together making a large flask of tea and a smaller flask containing Tomato soup. My wife bless her made some nice Tuna sandwiches to take with us.
Sunday is family lunch day at our house so I spent time chatting with relatives while Aiden had breakfast. Had I really turned my nose up at Sunday cooked roast dinner in exchange for soup & sandwiched on a summit?
With the car loaded Aiden & I finally departed our qth at 11:00 with the temperature gauge in the car telling me that it was -1C outside. My car windscreen was frozen so after the heated front & rear screens together with a little elbow juice to clear the side windows we were ready to set off. Traffic was not too bad and driving conditions were good and good progress was made. As we passed through Gargrave the hills coming into view looked like they had patchy snow on them. Driving up the road towards Halton Gill with G/NP-010 Pen-y-ghent on our left and G/NP-017 Fountains Fell on our right I noticed quite deep snow on both sides of the road. When G/NP-010 Pen-y-ghent came into view for the first time I began to wonder if I had done the right thing deciding to venture out. Arriving at the cattle grid parking spot for the start of the ascent to G/NP-017 Fountains Fell at 12:30 the car now told me that the outside temperature was 1C.
This is my eighth ascent of this hill and I could see patchy snow on the Pennine Way path we would be taking so on with a few extra layers and wellington boots. After taking a few photo’s of G/NP-010 Pen-y-ghent we set off wondering if we had done the right thing leaving the warmth and comfort of the car. Aiden & I agreed that if any point the ascent became too dangerous we would turn back as the hills would be there another day. As we quickly gained height the snow drifts were quite severe in places and the snow beneath my feet was frozen solid enough to take the weight of my 16st frame. A nice change from navigating the boggy/sodden first part of the ascent to the wooden gate. The going was quite difficult and sticking to the Pennine Way (I have never followed the wall and more direct route to the summit) there was a slight breeze at our backs. A couple of people came into sight descending and as they got closer I saw the woman take a fall on the hard snow and slide on her backside, luckily no damage was done and she saw the funny side if it. After a short chat they told us that it was worse higher up the path. We took the decision to go on and upon reaching the rocky section where the stream is (some people turn right here as I believe it is a short cut to the summit) it was just completely covered in snow and looked quite dangerous. Taking shelter from the now icy breeze after a warm brew and some more photo’s we picked a route across the solid snow with Aiden on my right so if the slipped I would hopefully break his fall. From this point all the three peaks are in view and this is the photo that I have as my desktop background on my pc. The views are fantastic on a clear day and I recommend it to anybody.
A short while later we arrived at the wall where you have to climb over the wall with the stone steps in it. The snow was level with the top of the wall here so no climbing was needed, we just stepped off the frozen snow onto the wall and onto the frozen snow at the opposite side! Turning right and heading for the stones at the true summit we took shelter by the wall and before setting up the flask came before the antenna. My new years resolution was to spend more time activated on 2M SSB so after a warm drink my Diamond A144S five element yagi was hoisted horizontally polarised fifteen foot or so above my head on the fishing pole.
A quick tune around and I found Rob G4RQJ/P activating G/LD-032 Whitfell and calling summit to summit at 13:27 he was in the log first call. Nice to get a S2S on 2M SSB I thought so now to the calling frequency. I put out my cq call and after half a dozen or so calls rotating the yagi slightly every time Barry from my club (Otley A.R.S) returned my call. That’s two in the log so back to the calling frequency. After several unanswered cq calls I began to wonder if I would qualify the summit without taking the antenna down and changing to vertical for FM use. I have lost interest in FM in the Leeds area as of late there are several mic keyers and new hams who clearly have no idea what a band plan is but that’s another story. Several more calls on 144.300 resulted in Simon M1AVV returning my call. After exchanging details I asked if he would kindly spot us. He did and what a difference a spot makes. After working another nine contacts with the icy wind now battering my face I decided that after working the small pile up that after no replies to my ‘QRZ’ I would pack up the station and head off the summit sharpish. The time was approaching 14:00 so half hour on the summit gave me twelve contacts on 2M SSB.I was more that happy as I don’t use the alerts option on the SOTA site. I thought about searching for the geocache but I decided today was not the day.
Packing up the station and a quick double check that I hadn’t left anything we were soon descending and arrived back a the car in approx 40 minutes.
The drive home with stiff legs, the car heaters on and a warm glow inside knowing today would be remembered as being special didn’t take long. After unpacking the car, cleaning flasks, logging contacts ect ect I collapsed into a nice hot bath at about 16:30 feeling quite chuffed with the days efforts.
Many, many thanks to those who worked me today, hope you treasure those chaser points for this activation as it wasn’t easy though well worth the effort. Also special thanks to G4RQJ Rob for the S2S and M1AVV Simon for the spot.
Stations worked… G4RQJ/P Rob, G3XNO Barry, M1AVV Simon, G3OHC Graham, G0TRB Roger, M0JDK John, G4FUJ Graham, G4OWG Roger, 2E0BMO Roger, G1KLZ Doug, G6LKB Dave and 2E0LAE Tony.
73 Chris 2E0FSR